Sunday, July 6, 2008

Charades Reveals Universal Sentence Structure

Susan Goldin-Meadow, a linguistic psychologist at the University of Chicago, and her colleagues asked 40 native speakers of Chinese, Turkish, English and Spanish to mime scenarios shown on a computer screen using only their hands and body. They discovered, to their surprise, that regardless of the order used in their native spoken language, most of the volunteers communicated with a subject-object-verb construction (opposed to the traditional, western ‘subject-verb-object’). Goldin-Meadow argues that this kind of sentence syntax might therefore be etched into our brains. Languages that veer away from this form, such as English, must have been influenced by cultural forces. Read more here.

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